[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen I was little I specifically remember my parents using the phrases “don’t talk back” and telling me to be quiet that I “don’t get the last word”. When you are a kid you think this is unfair. As an adult I have come to understand what they meant. When I was in my 20’s I remember how quickly I would react to something. At work if something bugged me about an email I received I would quickly fire off a response. Handling criticism wasn’t my strong suit (I am a Cancer – we are sensitive people!) I could be a little quick tempered and quick to react. I realize now that kids (or even adults) try to get the last word in because they are usually defending themselves or their position. By not having the last word they don’t feel like their point was made or taken into consideration.
Four years ago I started yoga teacher training. I had already been practicing yoga at that point for eight years. My practice had shifted from mainly being a physical practice to more of a balance between the mental and the physical. Yoga had become my therapy, my outlet. However, it wasn’t until I finished teacher training that I noticed a huge shift in my attitude and life. In yoga we are taught that you cannot control what comes to your mind (that is in fact one of the biggest misconceptions about yoga – you will never control your mind and what comes up in thoughts). You cannot always control the situations you are in. The choice you actually have, is how to react to everything. One of my favorite phrases is “life is 10% circumstance and 90% how you react to it”. You don’t have to go to yoga, or enroll in yoga teacher training. This is life. For every action there is a reaction, basic physics right? It is up to you to decide how you handle yourself.
After teacher training my life changed a lot. I stopped hanging out with people that brought negativity and drama to my life. I learned how to take criticism and use it productively instead of taking things personally. I learned that instead of firing off a quick tempered response to emails at work that might make me mad I would instead draft an email. I then would come back hours later and re-read the email. Nine times out of ten the emails got deleted. I genuinely had less bullshit and more peace in my life.
Life has ebbs and flows. I met my husband a few months after I finished YTT. I was pretty much living in this little bubble that was my life. I had stopped letting other people affect me. I didn’t really care what anyone else thought. I was mostly drama free. Things changed after we met. We were in a long distance relationship. It was stressful. He had baggage he was dealing with that ultimately I then was dealing with by default. My stress-free life became one of traveling every 3 weeks to visit each other and trying to figure out how to get to the same city with our jobs. The drama I had completely removed myself months before came creeping back in.
What I learned the past few years, maybe it’s patienence as I have gotten older or my yoga practice, maybe both, but I have learned that for every action there is a reaction – that your RE-action can actually be NO ACTION. There have been so many situations the past few years that I could have reacted to. I could have been my young kid self and tried to get the last word in. Most of the time though, I chose to get NO words in. I realized that no matter what I said it would never change the circumstances I was in. I have learned that people in life act out of anger, and rage, hurt and frustration and that they might take their emotions out on you. Instead of fueling fire with gasoline I realized fires go out on their own. I didn’t have to do ANYTHING. I learned how to be the bigger person and actually do and say absolutely nothing. I felt better about myself because of it. People’s actions are reflections of their true colors and for me to act out of anger or rage, that wasn’t me. I wasn’t an angry person. I didn’t lead a negative life. I wasn’t about to let external factors affect my “bubble” I had worked so hard to create for myself.
I have learned over the years that I don’t have to justify myself or my actions to anyone. I am the only one that has to walk in my shoes. It might sound arrogant or selfish but I have learned it is actually neither these things, that in fact it is a key to your own happiness. I have learned that everyone will have an opinion about you. They will judge you, give you advice, tell you what you are doing wrong, but ultimately it doesn’t matter what someone else would do, it matters how you yourself react. I have stopped trying to defend myself and stick up for myself and get that last word in because ultimately, everyone has a perception of you and you might not change that, and furthermore, does it REALLY matter what they think? The more you stop caring about what people think and stop trying to impress others the more freedom you truly have to become yourself – your perfectly imperfect self.
The next time you find yourself in a situation where you feel the need to defend yourself, where someone is trying to bring you down or threaten you, where someone is trying to get a rise out of you, where you want to fire off an email, or come back with a response in conversation that once said you can never take back, don’t do anything. Sit on it awhile. Ask yourself, what will I gain by reacting to this situation. If the answer is nothing (which I find most of the time it is) then there is your answer. Your best reaction really can be NO reaction. You don’t need to attend yoga teacher training to learn that!